Trumpeter 1/48 C-47A
KIT: Trumpeter 1/48 C-47A
KIT #: 2828
PRICE: $150.00 MSRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: New mold


     Derived from the Douglas DC-3 commercial transport, which is one of the two or three most important aircraft designs in history, the C-47 Skytrain was Number Three on General Eisenhower’s list of the three most important American contributions to victory in the Second World War, the other two being the Jeep and the LCVP landing craft.

      To call the C-47 ubiquitous is an understatement.  It was used everywhere the Allies operated, by every Allied air force.  It was even used by the enemy, with the Japanese operating a license-built version with the code name “Tabby.”

      Following the Second World War, the C-47 went on to play a major role in the Berlin Airlift, and every other conflict around the world for the next 30-odd years.  C-47s returned to civilian life and formed the basis of cargo airlines and were also used to supplement the passenger-carrying DC-3.

      74 years after the first DC-3 took to the air, DC-3s and C-47s are still to be seen in flight around the world.  I know of one out at Hemet that still goes to work every day, carrying skydivers.  There are three DC-3/C-47s out at Chino, all currently in license for flight. The number of airplanes that have come and gone over those seven and a half decades after being given the kiss of death of being called “the DC-3 replacement” is almost too many to count.  Suffice it to say that the only way to truly replace a DC-3 is with another one. 


     For the past 34 years, the Monogram DC-3 has been the only 1/48 kit of this airplane available.  It has been released and re-released over the years as both a C-47 and a DC-3, with its most recent incarnation being an AC-47D gunship.  The Monogram kit has all the good points and all of the bad points of the great old Monogram “big models” of that time.  Fit is so-so, all panel lines are raised, and the completed model does not specifically represent any particular C-47 sub-type.  That said, it is outline-accurate and can be assembled over a weekend.

      Given that the current incarnation of this kit goes for a whopping $34.10 with sales tax included here in California, while the new Trumpeter C-47 goes for $149 without a mail order discount price, one has to ask the question: 

      Is the Trumpeter kit five times better than the Monogram kit?

      It depends on what you want.

      The Monogram kit is pretty basic.  Many of the detail parts are fairly basic, and so far as the cockpit parts and anything else that goes into the fuselage are concerned, once the fuselage is glued together, what’s in there is invisible. The engines are one piece, though they can be painted to look pretty good when seen inside the cowlings.  The big problem is fit.  A modeler will use putty on each and every joint in the kit, and in sanding things smooth will remove a lot of the raised detail - enough to merit a complete rescribing once the kit is assembled.

      The Trumpeter kit is far more detailed, and almost all of the detail - including what goes in the fuselage - can be seen when completed. Since I have an unassembled Monogram kit here at Le Chateau du Chat, I took the opportunity to cross-fit the fuselage parts.  The Trumpeter kit is as outline-accurate as is the Monogram kit, with the only difference being that the nose of the Trumpeter kit is a bit more blunt than that of the Monogram kit. 

      Additionally, a comment was made at The Other Place that the propellers of the Trumpeter kit are a mess, with different-length blades.  Comparing the props in the Trumpeter kit with the props in the Monogram kit, the props are the correct sizes and the blades are all of a uniform length.  The only problem here is that Trumpeter has provided paddle-blade props, which are only correct for post-war C-47s.

      All of the control surfaces and the flaps are molded separately and can be posed dynamically.  There is one glitch with these parts - the rudder is molded as if it was all-metal, rather than fabric-covered.  This can be easily fixed by gluing thin Evergreen strip over the engraved rivet lines, with the result that the rudder will then have the same kind of “fabric effect” as the ailerons and elevators have.

     The cockpit, navigator’s compartment and radioman’s compartment are more detailed than on the Monogram kit.  Since the nose access door is separate and can be posed open, this means there is enough light that enters the forward fuselage that one can look through the clear parts - which are much thinner and clearer than the similar parts on the Monogram kit, and see the interior detail.  The cabin area is also more detailed, with the bucket seats being more accurate. Photoetch seatbelts are provided, which will enhance the final look.  If one poses the cargo doors fully open, and since the windows are both thin and separate, there will be enough light that all of this detail will be visible.

      As is usual with Trumpeter kits, the engines are very completely detailed.  Detail here is sufficient that a modeler could easily do a diorama with this model of a C-47 having an engine worked on, without having to add much more than wiring.

      For once, the decals are not a complete write-off.  Trumpeter has provided D-Day invasion stripes in the decals for those intimidated by the thought of masking and painting these items.  The national insignia are for once close enough to the correct proportions that they can be used. The individual markings also look OK.  For those who want something better in this department, Xtradecals has just released two sheets of decals for the C-47 - one for USAAF C-47s and one if Dakotas flown by the RAF, RAAF, and RNZAF.

      For many, the big negative will be the engraved surface detail.  The DC-3/C-37 not only has raised rivets but the airplane features lapped panels.  Here many modelers have commented that the Monogram kit’s raised-line detail gives a better approximation of lapped panels than an engraved line will.  While I wish the practice of giving everything engraved rivet detail was something that had never started, I don’t think this will ultimately look worse on than the proverbial “coat of paint” than does the detail on the SBD Dauntless.


      So.  Your choice of the two kits depends on the size of your modeling budget and your ultimate goal. If the C-47 is an airplane you find interesting and important and you want to have only one in your collection, then the Trumpeter kit is the way to go, since it provides all the detail one could want.  So far as the cost differential is concerned, let us remember that the Monogram molds have long since been amortized. $30 is little more than double what the price was on initial release 30 years ago, which means that with inflation it might even be selling for a bit less today - in terms of constant dollars - than it did originally.  Had the Monogram kit - with the detail level it provides - been released today, it would likely have a price of around $50, which makes the Trumpeter kit only about three times as expensive, and that is a price that is competitive when one considers the additional detail this kit provides.

 Thanks to Stevens International for the review kit.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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